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Spencer Butte via Cussed Hollow Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Azure waters, Lewis River (bobcat)
Lower Falls, Lewis River (bobcat)
Cussed Hollow Creek, Cussed Hollow (bobcat)
Trail sign, Bluff Trail (bobcat)
Douglas-firs, Cussed Hollow Trail (bobcat)
The loop route to Spencer Butte from the Lewis River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Lower Lewis River Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Spencer Butte
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop with spur
  • Distance: 14.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3475 feet
  • High Point: 4,247 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

This rarely hiked loop takes you up to Spencer Butte via the Cussed Hollow Trail, which sees more dirt bike than hiker traffic. Still, the dirt bikes are few and far between, so you should not be overtly disturbed although the trail is quite rutted. When the trail reaches FR 93, you can admire the expanse of Spencer Meadow and then hike to the old lookout site on the top of Spencer Butte, which offers limited views. The suggested return is via the little-traveled Bluff Trail, where you will need to pay strict attention to keep to the scratch of a route. The last leg has you strolling above the limpid waters of the Lewis River to get a head-on view of Lower Lewis River Falls.

Walk past the restroom at the Lower Lewis River Falls Trailhead. The sign says 1/8 mile to the Waterfall Viewpoint and Lewis River Trail. This is a lush forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, big-leaf maple, red huckleberry, lady fern, sword fern, Oregon grape, and vanilla leaf. At a trail junction, go right for the viewpoints. The two viewpoints offer overlooks to Lower Lewis River Falls, which spill over a ledge in several braids when the water levels are low. From here, head upriver, getting a view of the potholes above the falls. There are steps down to the potholes and the rim of the main cataract. The main trail continues above the river. Spurs lead left to the campground. A boardwalk leads right to the cobbled river bank, and then a short staircase upriver leads back to the main trail. Another set of steps leads down to the river, and soon you come to a sign saying 1 mile to the Wright Meadows Trail. The trail heads up along the bluff and departs from the campground area at a bend in the river. There are views ahead to the pilings of the Sheep Bridge that connected the Lewis River Campground on the opposite bank to this side of the river before FR 90 existed. The trail drops to cross a footbridge in lush woods and then levels along a bluff. Old fire-scarred snags attest to the conflagration that raged through this area decades ago. Cross a bridge in an alder-shaded gully above a trickling waterfall and reach the Lewis River-Wright Meadows Trail Junction.

The trail leads up to the left on an old road bed and then switchbacks to a pullout on FR 90 at the Wright Meadows Trailhead. Cross the road and pass the trail signpost: 3/4 mile to the Cussed Hollow Trail. The path, heavily rutted by motorcycle use, heads up and switchbacks twice to a bench. Then, the track rises more gently in Douglas-fir, hemlock and red-cedar forest. The grade becomes a little steeper and larger Douglas-firs, as well as some silver firs, appear. Make a gentler traverse, cross a creek bed and come to the Wright Meadows-Cussed Hollow Trail Junction.

The Cussed Hollow Trail #19 rises, drops, and levels under several large old-growth Douglas-firs before you cross a trickling brook. Salal, bracken, Oregon grape, and red huckleberry form the understory. The trail undulates some more, often traversing on the level with some short rises. Young western white pines appear trailside. Cross a creek shaded by lush salmonberry and vine maple growth. The trail drops steeply to a clearcut planted with a mixed offering of Douglas-fir, noble fir, silver fir, western red-cedar and western hemlock. Reenter old growth forest, cross a creek and note blueberries for the picking along the trail in late summer. The path heads up along the bank of Cussed Hollow Creek and crosses it below a logjam. Admire the large old-growth Douglas-firs and hemlocks in these woods. Switchback up as the trail becomes more deeply rutted. Take two more switchbacks and then make a level traverse among mostly smaller trees. Pass a lightning-split hemlock, cross two dry gullies, ascend again and then walk on the level. The trail crosses a lush alder-shaded gully and switchbacks twice to an unmarked junction. Keep right on the main trail, which switchbacks down to a tributary of Cussed Hollow Creek and then rises to the Cussed Hollow Trailhead on paved Road 93.

Go right on the road about 200 yards and find the sign for Spencer Butte Trail #30 at a dirt track turning off from FR 93. Follow the track to where it curves right and then follow this down to Spencer Meadow, rimmed with spiraea, dotted with cottongrass and blooming with white bog orchids and meadow death-camas in summer. To make a loop back to the Butte Trail, turn right off the meadow access road and keep going left around through the woods, joining the Wildcat Trail #25 momentarily before finding the Spencer Butte Trail going up to the right. The rutted trail, used by motorcycles, begins on the level under white pines, silver fir and Douglas-fir with a bracken carpet. Then it becomes steeper, with views east to Mount Adams, the Indian Heaven ridgeline, and down into Cussed Hollow. Huckleberries, vine maple, and lupine grow trailside in these more open woods. Pass a lone cottonwood on the ridge. The trail levels and then heads up gently through silver firs and some nobles. At the grassy top, there is the concrete foundation of the 1935 lookout. You can see Mount Saint Helens to the west through the trees, which have grown up to obstruct the view.

Return down the Spencer Butte Trail and go right on FR 93, which generally keeps on the level, rising only slightly. Douglas-fir and western white pine form the forest wall on both sides. Reach a 15 mph bend and then pass a second 15 mph sign. Walk another 500 yards or so before reaching the trailhead for the Bluff Trail #24.

This unmaintained trail is level initially. These are dry woods of Douglas-fir, silver fir, western hemlock and western white pine. Then the tread drops steeply, gets gentler and levels before descending again. Wind down steeply, and then drop with an alder gully to your left. The trail turns to the right and continues to drop steeply, switchbacking three times to a bench cloaked with vanilla leaf, bracken and Oregon grape. There’s a ferny gully to your right and the deep ravine of Cussed Hollow Creek to your left. Cross the ferny gully and follow the track to the right to descend through woodland carpeted with lady fern, deer fern, sword fern and wood-sorrel. Pass a spring and note the many fire-scarred snags before reaching the Lewis River-Bluff Trail Junction.

Here, go left and switchback down to cross Cussed Hollow Creek on a wide footbridge above its confluence with the Lewis River. The trail heads up the bluff and levels in shady woods before dropping to reach FR 90 at the Crab Creek Trailhead. Here, go right for about 40 yards towards the road bridge over the river and pick up the trail heading into old growth forest. Spurs right lead to some campsites and the river. The trail keeps level along the river among some large Douglas-firs and cedars. Hike above deep, clear pools and cross a gully to continuing along the slope. Then, cross a footbridge and drop to the river level on a sunny, bracken-covered flat blooming with asters in late summer. Old alders line the bank. The trail reenters shady woods. Pass over a small gully and then a footbridge. The Lower Lewis River Falls come into view. A steep spur down to the right leads to some exposed bedrock on the river bed for a frontal view of the falls. Back on the main trail, continue up to parking.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required at trailhead
  • Share Cussed Hollow and Spencer Butte Trails with dirt bikes and mountain bikes

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lone Butte, WA #365
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • No guidebook details this exact loop, but the following describe portions of it:
  • Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Hiking Washington's Goat Rocks Country by Fred Barstad

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.